PrimaBlock is a blockchain platform for pooling funds on Ethereum. PrimaBlock’s smart contracts allow gathering Ether from many people to participate in an ICO.
Hi, Mickaël. Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us what was your educational and professional path leading to PrimaBlock?
I have been in the startup and tech ecosystem for the past 10 years, getting products off the ground, being part of teams or consulting larger companies in User Experience and New Technologies. I have a degree in Physics, a BA in Computer Science(CS) and started an MSc in CS at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. But I’ve always been more interested in building than sitting in a classroom, in fact, I am one report away from graduating, maybe one day I’ll get the time for it. (laughs)
Why did you decide to go into Computer Sciences instead of continuing Theoretical Physics?
I respect and enjoy the beauty of theoretical physics, but I realized that what made me tick beside the creative process is the ability to have an impact on people’s lives, now. As long as I can remember, I enjoyed building things on the weekends and tried to make a business out of it afterward!
Can you tell us more about your past experiences?
I worked on various companies and NGOs, from entry-level employee to board member. I was 18 when I created my first company: Le Catalyst, a consulting company in technology, strategy, and R&D. It was a great experience and enabled me to work with a wide range of startups and products, from an electronic sports cars with Scarlet Motors to the famous game “angry birds” with Rovio. During the same period, I co-organised an esports event called Wowlympiades with Jérémy Bonioni, and to my surprise, it became much bigger than we expected. It was and might still be the biggest e-sport event in Europe. Based slightly on the Olympics model, it was one week of live streamed events in which people compete in different disciplines within the realm of World of Warcraft. All the collected funds went to the organization “Childs play” providing games to children in hospitals. It was a great success and although it took place 6 years ago we still get messages from people asking the date of the second edition. (laughs)
During my master studies, I was a member of the board at Chalmers University of Technology Robotics society, which organized events on robotics innovation and the nordic robotic competition Robot-SM. I launched a startup in computer interfaces. The idea was to create a non-invasive brain-computer interface compatible with VR headsets. We were selected to participate in a Snapchat pitch contest organized by Justin Kan, creator of Twitch and partner at YC. We went through 7 prototype iterations, at which point we could control spells such as fireballs with our mind. The system was easy to use, just need to connect a USB dongle and replace the straps on your VR headsets. Unfortunately, we got stuck mid process because most of the tech in the space was already patented.
You also mentioned to me that you worked in academic research, right?
Yes, I was lucky enough to join a research lab and co-publish papers in academic journals about Human-Computer Interaction such as augmented reality and the effects of holographic screens’ presence in everyday life.We also worked with 3D reconstruction technology to assess the limits and future work needed for usage under-water in the hope to use the technology on the mapping of submerged objects and terrain.
Who was the person who inspired you the most?
It was certainly my brother. He was 9 years older than me, a bright mind with a background in computer science and electronics, coupled to an entrepreneur spirit. He was always keen to share his knowledge with me, and I inherited his will to innovate and to “get shit done”!
It has been tough to see him go so young, but I’m dedicated to keeping his dreams and strength alive through my work.
The most interesting part of my years in product building was coming up with solutions to real life problems. At PrimaBlock, we currently help our users pool funds, and in the near future, we want to help them find new types of investments and potentially free themselves from the financial system.
So computer science is a family passion?
Well, not my parents’, nor my sister’s. (laughs) But my brother and I had these inquisitive minds, always trying to understand how things work. At home, we took everything apart and then put it all back together, just to understand what was happening inside.
What are the key skills that helped while building PrimaBlock?
The first skill would be strategic thinking, the ability to understand ecosystems, discern different actors that are or will be part of it, understand how we can evolve in it and find win-win situations with other actors.Being autodidact is definitely helpful, and my experience in managing small teams and establishing a culture is valuable.
What are you the most passionate about at PrimaBlock?
Helping our users. The most interesting part of my years in product building was coming up with solutions to real life problems. At PrimaBlock, we currently help our users pool funds, and in the near future, we want to help them find new types of investments and potentially free themselves from the financial system. For me, it is always about helping someone to achieve something. In general, if my work does not involve providing a solution to an important problem for the users, it will not hold my interest for long.
What has been the biggest surprise for you with Primablock?
What surprised me is that we had such an impact on the ecosystem. As we made it much easier for people to pool funds, many syndicates saw the light of day. There were a few syndicates before, but giving that everybody wanted to invest in presales and that PrimaBlock simplified the process, it fostered the growth of syndicates. I think we played a big role in this ecosystem evolution. But the biggest surprise was to find a co-founder who has the same spirit and values as I do. Meeting a co-founder with the same passion, the same mindset in terms of work ethics, who is focused, dedicated and smart, does not happen every day. I have had a lot of experiences as a co-founder and this is the first time I am completely in sync with the other person. Clashes happen frequently between co-founders because people have different visions, values. Especially, with the success we had, we could have easily been torn apart.It does not mean that we agree on everything. It is important to have a complementary teammate. For example, Tamir has more a day to day strategy, and I am more future-oriented.
It is like being in a marriage!
Yes, and finding a name for a baby was not easy as well (laughs)!
Is it a good fusion in term of skills as well?
We both have a tech background so we know how to talk to each other. But while I worked with a lot of different technologies, he worked in a more concentrated way on fewer topics. Tamir has a stronger experience in tech. He is an expert on various topics and he knows how to manage tech people. He also brings the knowledge from big companies on structural organization and culture. While I have more experience with business and bootstrapping.
What is surprising is that you didn’t even know each other before creating PrimaBlock!
Yes, we met via a telegram group and it took us 5 months after launching PrimaBlock to meet face to face! (laughs)
What is your vision for PrimaBlock?
PrimaBlock’s purpose is to democratize access to financial services and technology.When the internet was born, the sharing of information became very easy. More and more open source projects and SaaS companies appeared allowing higher level innovations. But in Financial services, we are not there yet. Big companies are barricading their technology behind huge fees. Democratising access to financial technology and services is the long-term vision of Primablock.
It won’t be easy, what makes you think you will make it?
Dream big or go home, that’s our mindset. We gathered a highly talented team with experience and the will to follow us in this adventure, a strong community and we delivered on all our promises. So, only up to us to keep working hard to help our users.
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